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Advice on moisture barrier for installation behind existing framing

Advice on moisture barrier for installation behind existing framing


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Old 02-28-21, 12:54 PM
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Advice on moisture barrier for installation behind existing framing

I'm remodeling my basement. It was previous remodeled in typical cheap 80' fashion, crappy wood panels and drop ceiling and carpet and gross. I tore everything out and inspected the existing framing and it is in good shape so I am going to keep it in place and reuse it. It sits about 8 inches away from the block walls so there is a big air gap. There was no moisture barrier, vapor barrier, or insulation in there, just concrete wall, air, then wood paneling. I saw this youtube video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGjO1wddX7A

That says to take Typar, staple it up behind the studs, don't tape it but keep it tight, and then use normal pink insulation in the studs (using the Typar as a "backing") and then normal moisture barrier over that. Only thing is I need about 150' of Typar and that runs over $325. I can get 6 mil plastic sheeting for $75, but that won't breathe and the Typar does breathe and I don't know if that is important? And if it is are there any cheaper Typar alternatives that can be used? Since it's going to be behind a basement wall vs being used as actual house wrap I don't think I need "the good stuff" and $$ are at a premium. But if there really is no alternative I will go with Typar if I must.

Thanks for any advice
 
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Old 02-28-21, 02:26 PM
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You don't "need" a vapor barrier on interior basement walls. If there is no vapor barrier, the concrete can dry to the outside (its buried in wet soil) so basement walls can dry to the inside when needed, and that is usually a good thing. You just need to provide some space for that to happen.

The condition of your foundation may help decide the manner in which the walls should be finished. If your walls are habitually wet, that needs to be addressed from the outside before you ever think about finishing (or renovating) the basement walls.

Another school of thought when insulating basements (more so in colder climates where the ground freezes deep) is to completely insulate and air seal the walls with 2" of rigid foam. Then frame your walls. Basically isolating the cold wall from any warm interior air that could cause a condensation problem, and from any wood or paper products that could get moldy or mildewy.

Not a big fan of that video at ALL. But the guy that made it is in Canada, and they love poly up there. And I don't think the way he did it would meet code if it was inspected since Canada requires more R value than that (he only used R12) in basements. And he didn't insulate behind that wall box.

The only reason he used the Typar is to keep the unfaced insulation in place. They make insulation fabric (netting) that is actually made for this very purpose. Or you could just use the plastic bird netting they sell in the garden area of the box store. However there is no reason to use either of those things if you would just use Kraft faced insulation in the first place. And skip the poly. Kraft facing is a little more breathable than poly. Also a good thing.

With no info about your location or what zone you are in makes it hard to make a recommendation on how you should insulate, frame and finish your walls.
 
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Old 02-28-21, 06:22 PM
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You don't "need" a vapor barrier on interior basement walls. If there is no vapor barrier, the concrete can dry to the outside (its buried in wet soil) so basement walls can dry to the inside when needed, and that is usually a good thing. You just need to provide some space for that to happen.
I would like one both to act as a backing to the insulation and as an extra air/humidity barrier so I don't get condensation on my insulation and have an extra barrier to musty smells in the basement. There will still be 8 inches of air between the concrete walls and the Typar (or whatever sheathing I use) for airflow and drying to occur.

The condition of your foundation may help decide the manner in which the walls should be finished. If your walls are habitually wet, that needs to be addressed from the outside before you ever think about finishing (or renovating) the basement walls
All this work will be done after the basement is inspected by a professional basement waterproofer I have used before and any issues found are remediated. The walls did have a moisture/mold problem in the corners behind the walls when we bought the place but that was due to poor exterior drainage and bad gutter placement. I have since installed underground gutter extensions with take the water 10 feet away from the house and the issue has been solved, I cleaned up the old mold and mildew over a year ago and its still clean today.

Another school of thought when insulating basements (more so in colder climates where the ground freezes deep) is to completely insulate and air seal the walls with 2" of rigid foam. Then frame your walls.
So If I was putting in new framing that is exactly the approach I would take. But I want to save time and money by reusing the existing framing, and there are plumbing lines that would make rigid foam a real pain to attach to the wall. I also want to avoid hammer drilling holes in the foundation

Not a big fan of that video at ALL. But the guy that made it is in Canada, and they love poly up there. And I don't think the way he did it would meet code if it was inspected since Canada requires more R value than that (he only used R12) in basements. And he didn't insulate behind that wall box.
Well the way I figure it he is in Ottowa and I am in Philadelphia and Ottowa gets way colder, so if it works there it should work here. I'm not tied to R12 I can always go higher.

The only reason he used the Typar is to keep the unfaced insulation in place. They make insulation fabric (netting) that is actually made for this very purpose. Or you could just use the plastic bird netting they sell in the garden area of the box stor
I'm trying to get a little more vapor protection than an open netting would give me to have extra insurance against condensation on the back of the insulation. Would you agree that is a worthwhile goal? I want the basement to smell clean

However there is no reason to use either of those things if you would just use Kraft faced insulation in the first place. And skip the poly. Kraft facing is a little more breathable than poly. Also a good thing.
I has assumed a poly would be more vapor resistant that the paper would be.

With no info about your location or what zone you are in makes it hard to make a recommendation on how you should insulate, frame and finish your walls.
Philadelphia, PA which looks to be zone 4A. The proposed finished wall would be Concrete block -> 8 inches of air -> Typar stapled to back of stud -> insulation -> poly staples to stud -> drywall.
 
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Old 02-28-21, 06:42 PM
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I would like one both to act as a backing to the insulation and as an extra air/humidity barrier
Well since Typar is the opposite of a vapor barrier, (its vapor permeable) you aren't off to a great start. And 8" of dead space is a waste of space, imo. But if its preexisting framing and tearing it down doesn't make sense, so be it. I'd likely tear it down, put 2" of foam on the foundation walls (air sealed and vapor barrier) and then frame walls against it, moving any utilities as needed. No holes would be needed in the foundation, foam adhesive and the framing + shims as needed would hold it back. No musty dead air space.

As far as your concerns about smell, what stops air in your 8" musty air space from getting into the spaces between joists, and drawn into the house?

Just an idea, but look at your video again and read the comments. See if some of those thumbs down commenters have anything negative to say about his plan. Cuz if its not good in Ottawa its not good in Philly.
 
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Old 02-28-21, 06:52 PM
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One other question, looking at this video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P5E2X8Q5jcQ

He is discussing different types of moisture barriers, either rigid foam, house wrap, or poly, but he is putting them directly against the concrete wall. Since I have existing framing that is 8 inches out from the wall, am I correct in thinking I should not be putting my moisture barrier against the concrete wall but instead against the back of the studs like in the other video I posted?
 
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Old 02-28-21, 07:43 PM
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If you have questions about his video, maybe ask him. I don't subscribe to putting a thin sheet of anything on the concrete.
 
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Old 02-28-21, 09:52 PM
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I'd likely tear it down, put 2" of foam on the foundation walls (air sealed and vapor barrier) and then frame walls against it, moving any utilities as needed. No holes would be needed in the foundation, foam adhesive and the framing + shims as needed would hold it back.
My basement is currently finished the same way (by the previous owner) and this is exactly the way I would do it if/when I tear out the paneling. My basement is 3/4 below ground though, so it stays pretty comfortable down there, and I have good drainage outside and proper ventilation inside, which helps keep the air fresh.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe the basic idea is to keep moisture out by ensuring the exterior of the foundation wall is properly sealed, and to keep humid indoor air from condensing on the cold interior wall by installing foam board and a vapor barrier, then allowing the humid air to stay suspended in the room and regulated by your home's ventilation system.

Could OP use one of the thinner foam boards for some cost savings and put some unfaced batts between the studs to increase the overall R value?
 
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Old 02-28-21, 11:05 PM
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Vapor barriers go to the warm side of the insulation so it's sounds like you're proposing it on the wrong side. FWIW, I'm with X in voting for no vapor barrier on a below grade wall.
 
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Old 03-01-21, 12:29 AM
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I would like one both to act as a backing to the insulation and as an extra air/humidity barrier
Sooo much debate on this topic and for my 2 cents, and I recognize that Canada is a bit, different, I absolutely would never put plastic/poly on any wall. it's a complete vapor/moisture/water barrier and with the wrong conditions your going to have issues.

I'm also not a big fan of installing foam on the walls, not saying it wont work but the cost is way, way up there for minimal benefit.
All I do is build my walls off the wall surface and allow open area for venting the back side and assuming you no water issues it works just fine!


 
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Old 03-01-21, 04:14 AM
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Most new homes are going to have blanket insulation installed floor to ceiling. (In Canada , new homes require R20). But there is a lot of difference of opinion when it comes to retrofits to existing or unfinished basements, so these are done on a case by case basis, and solutions vary.

The framed wall blocks heat, so the foundation wall gets colder than it would otherwise- if the framed wall was not there. Colder wall = lower dew point, increasing the likelihood of condensation *if* warm interior air gets to it. And you don't want the back of the studs or the insulation in that wall to ever drop below the dew point or they can get mold and mildew on them, which is not healthy to breathe.

So to combat that, some put a vapor barrier (or housewrap) over the concrete. (And as in the video @valar posted in post #1, housewrap is preferable to poly since housewrap can breathe). But in doing that, both surfaces of that singIe sheet will be cold. (Poly and Housewrap have no r-value) Warm interior air could condense on the interior side of either one, especially if it is directly on the foundation. (Which is why pulling it tight to the back of the studs is better)

So instead of doing that, you can apply spray foam (best)... or put sheets of thick foam insulation on the concrete, (2nd best) so that the interior surface of that foam always stays above the dew point... and make sure you air seal all the seams as you install it.

Obviously, the colder your climate is, the more important the correct insulation and placement of the vapor barrier becomes. And you simply should not ever finish over known wet basement walls without factoring in a solution for that. (Typically a membrane and interior perimeter drainage to a sump pump or pumps, plural.)

And I should point out that in the drawing provided by marq1, above, that the air path depicted by the arrow would be a fire code violation, since any space behind the wall needs to be fireblocked (air sealed) at the top plate so that fire cannot spread quickly into the joists. I assume that curved arrow should have just been a straight line pointing at the gap between the framing and wall to indicate a dead air space. There should not be "free airflow" there due to fire codes.

Situations like this are where the building science website comes in handy. Rather than just doing what you and your opinion thinks is best, or doing what everyone else on youtube is doing, it makes sense to use the tested solutions that they advocate. See https://www.buildingscience.com/docu...r-basment/view
 
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Old 03-01-21, 05:11 AM
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Glad to see such a lively discussion!

Well since Typar is the opposite of a vapor barrier, (its vapor permeable) you aren't off to a great start.
I thought I wanted a little bit of breathability so there wouldn't be condensation on the material?

And 8" of dead space is a waste of space, imo. But if its preexisting framing and tearing it down doesn't make sense, so be it. I'd likely tear it down, put 2" of foam on the foundation walls (air sealed and vapor barrier) and then frame walls against it, moving any utilities as needed. No holes would be needed in the foundation, foam adhesive and the framing + shims as needed would hold it back. No musty dead air space.
In a perfect world, sure I'd take that approach. But the foam alone would be around $900 to cover the walls and the new lumber another $700 ish, not to mention the time and labor of demoing out perfectly fine framing and electrical and rerouting plumbing and putting in all new framing. There is no way in the world I am doing that, I am 100% making due with what is in place, the existing lumber has been there 40 years and is fine shape.

As far as your concerns about smell, what stops air in your 8" musty air space from getting into the spaces between joists, and drawn into the house?
Cold air doesn't rise, and I'll be insulating the rim joists, and it hasn't come up the floors to date

Vapor barriers go to the warm side of the insulation so it's sounds like you're proposing it on the wrong side. FWIW, I'm with X in voting for no vapor barrier on a below grade wall.
Maybe I am getting my terms wrong or misusing them. I see two things:

* Moisture barrier, this goes on the cold side of the wall facing the concrete wall, and is either attached to the concrete or stapled to the back of the studs. Using Typar or a similar material

* Vapor barrier, this goes on the warm side of the wall facing the finished basement and is either poly or the paper of Kraft insulation if I go that route.My question is about the moisture barrier, not the vapor barrier

I absolutely would never put plastic/poly on any wall. it's a complete vapor/moisture/water barrier and with the wrong conditions your going to have issues.
So your picture is what I am planning with just the additional of Typar or some cheaper slightly breathable sheeting attached to the back of the studs to give a little extra protection and act as a backing to the insulation.

So to combat that, some put a vapor barrier (or housewrap) over the concrete. (And as in the video @valar posted in post #1, housewrap is preferable to poly since housewrap can breathe). But in doing that, both surfaces of that singIe sheet will be cold. (Poly and Housewrap have no r-value) Warm interior air could condense on the interior side of either one, especially if it is directly on the foundation. (Which is why pulling it tight to the back of the studs is better)
The warm side of house wrap will have insulation in front of it, then a sheet of poly over the insulation, then drywall over the poly, so warm air shouldn't be going through all that and getting to that side house wrap. It sounds like you agree the "attach house wrap to back of studs, then either insulation+poly or Kraft insulation" will meet my needs?

If that is the case, back to my original question, is there any cheaper alternative material to Typar that can be used and achieve the same desired effect?
 
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Old 03-01-21, 05:33 AM
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I will post some pictures of one of the demo'd walls soon so you can see the setup. My goal here is to keep this as cheap, DIY, and effective at keeping odors out as possible. Again before any of this work is being done the basement will be professionally inspected for any water issues and if needed they will be professionally remediated so water intrusion will not be an issue when the walls get sealed up.

Talking to contractors I can save myself several thousand dollars be keeping the existing framing and doing the insulation work myself . So the goal here is "bang for the buck that I can do myself and keeps the basement smelling clean", not "impenetrable fortress able to withstand Noah's flood"
 
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Old 03-01-21, 05:43 AM
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Condensation is a result of temperature... not the result of what the material is. So *if* you use a product behind your wall it should be as far away from the cold foundation as possible. As I said, you could use netting, insulation fabric or any other housewrap.. all cheaper than Typar. Housewrap are wrb's meant to shed liquid water on the outside of a house. When used inside they serve no purpose as far as moisture is concerned unless your washer upstairs leaks or water comes gushing out of your foundation wall. Your reasoning for not using netting is illogical. You just need something to keep the insulation from falling away (if you use unfaced) which is pointless when you can use Kraft faced and omit the poly, which many in the US would do since it can be a problem of its own. Many builders REFUSE to use poly as a vapor barrier nowadays.
 
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Old 03-01-21, 08:07 AM
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Condensation is a result of temperature... not the result of what the material is. So *if* you use a product behind your wall it should be as far away from the cold foundation as possible.
OK, so that would be attached to the back of the studs and I would have nothing hanging on the concrete wall like video #2 shows, cool. Got that settled. It looks like video #2 was showing what to do if you plan on putting your studs directly against the concrete which would not apply in my situation.

As I said, you could use netting, insulation fabric or any other housewrap.. all cheaper than Typar. Housewrap are wrb's meant to shed liquid water on the outside of a house. When used inside they serve no purpose as far as moisture is concerned unless your washer upstairs leaks or water comes gushing out of your foundation wall. Your reasoning for not using netting is illogical.
Interesting, I would think the house wrap would add a little bit of extra vapor/odor barrier than an open netting, wouldn't it? If it really would make zero difference and is purely just to keep the insulation in place then I can look into cheaper options, do you have any links to the types of products you are recommending? Just to confirm though, I should not use something like poly that will not breath, is that correct?


You just need something to keep the insulation from falling away (if you use unfaced) which is pointless when you can use Kraft faced and omit the poly, which many in the US would do since it can be a problem of its own. Many builders REFUSE to use poly as a vapor barrier nowadays.
I'm not completely opposed to Kraft face, to tell you the truth is just hadn't occurred to me. However I want to keep everything off the back of the drywall and from what I am reading the paper on the Kraft insulation is permeable, so if any warm air gets past the drywall it could get past the paper and possible hit cold air in the insulation causing condensation, or if cool air got through the insulation it could get through the paper and condense on the back of the drywall. I realize it's probably a .001% chance of happening thing but poly is cheap and stapling it up is easy and if it helps me sleep better, why not?

Or do I want breath ability between the insulation and drywall? I have read some articles saying it is helpful to have no completely vapor proof barrier anywhere so there is always some breath-ability between the concrete walls and the interior space to help any moist air dry in the inside of the room. My concern there is odor. The basement reeks now, but I think most of that is from the carpet, the previous owner just put a bare carpet pad and carpet right on top of the concrete slab.

I'll get some picture up later. And thanks again for the help everyone, I'm generally a handy person but this is the biggest diy job I've taken on and I want to make sure my plan is on a good footing. Whatever setup I do end up with I will be leaving it just insulated but with no drywall for a few weeks so I can keep an eye on it and inspect it for condensation and odor and if I find a problem I can remediate it without having to tear out and redo drywall. but if I can pull this off and manage to get the vinyl plank flooring installed and complete the ceiling framing I need done I will be saving myself over $10,000 in remodel costs so it's worth it to at least try.
 
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Old 03-01-21, 08:38 AM
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the air path depicted by the arrow would be a fire code violation
Fire blocks are required BETWEEN floors so that wall is nothing more than a freestanding wall within the floor, no different than if it was a half wall or a partition.

One note that opening is not continuous around the perimeter, about every 3 or 4 cavities are open!
 
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Old 03-01-21, 09:06 AM
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Basement exterior walls need fireblocking behind the top plate, and fireblocking every 10 feet horizontally.

 
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Old 03-01-21, 03:05 PM
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Not to try and distract from the very important topic of fire breaks but any comments on my last post? If I am not getting any benefit from using Typar over anything else, could anyone share links of other products? I was at Lowes today but didn't see any product that looked like it was made for that

And would there be a downside to using something vapor proof, plastic sheeting is cheap but I'm not if it is important to have a breathable membrane on that side of the insulation
 
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Old 03-01-21, 04:45 PM
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In a perfect world, sure I'd take that approach. But the foam alone would be around $900 to cover the walls and the new lumber another $700 ish,
The 1" foam board is $19 a sheet, so $900 is about 47 sheets. That's 188 linear feet. Your exterior basement wall is that large?

At a minimum, I would install the foam boards against the foundation wall, air seal, use spray foam where rigid foam won't work, and install unfaced batts on the above grade portion of the walls. Then Sheetrock and be done with it.
 
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Old 03-02-21, 11:04 AM
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The 1" foam board is $19 a sheet, so $900 is about 47 sheets. That's 188 linear feet. Your exterior basement wall is that large?


2 inch foam (which is what I saw reccomended) is around $30 a sheet.


At a minimum, I would install the foam boards against the foundation wall, air seal, use spray foam where rigid foam won't work, and install unfaced batts on the above grade portion of the walls. Then Sheetrock and be done with it.
Way to expensive and too much labor. It's easy to say "spend the time and money for the overkill solution" when you aren't doing the work, but I am doing the work, and I'm not doing that much work.
 
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Old 03-05-21, 07:58 AM
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Well after all the discussion turns out I'm just going to do what it says in the video.
 
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Old 03-10-21, 05:54 AM
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However there is no reason to use either of those things if you would just use Kraft faced insulation in the first place.
You are saying I could have Wall > Air Gap > Stub > Faces batt insulation > Drywall and be fine?

Is it OK to have open insulation against the air like that and no solid vapor barrier between the insulation and drywall? the paper is moisture resistant but not a barrier.

If this was OK this would be the cheapest and least labor intensive way to go since I would not need any house wrap backing, I could staple the paper to the studs to hold the insulation in place
 
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Old 03-10-21, 06:02 AM
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Yes. What do you think a ceiling looks like from above when it is insulated with fiberglass batts? A wall with a gap (of any size) behind it is no different. As I said, in his video, he is only using the housewrap to keep unfaced batts in place so they don't fall against the concrete.
 
valar voted this post useful.
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Old 03-10-21, 07:05 AM
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Yes. What do you think a ceiling looks like from above when it is insulated with fiberglass batts? A wall with a gap (of any size) behind it is no different. As I said, in his video, he is only using the housewrap to keep unfaced batts in place so they don't fall against the concrete.
Thats a very fair point. So just to answer my last neurotic questions:

* A R15 faced insulation (the walls are 2x4) will have enough insulating power to keep the warm air from the basement getting to the cool air of the air gap and condensing on the insulation?

* The permeability of the facing being against the drywall won't cause any harm with moisture? Drywall is vapor permeable, and the face of the batting is vapor permeable, meaning warm air can get through the drywall and paper and into the insulation where it could hit cooler air from the air gap and see the above point, A poly barrier would certainly stop that but if it isn't needed....

* Should I leave an air gap between the rim joists and top plate of the wall to allow for air flow so the air gap can "breathe"? The ceiling will be a drop ceiling so there will be an a gap of an inch or so between the bottom of the floor joists and the ceiling, which will allow for air flow. I have read that it is good to have air flow so any moisture can dry "into the room" and not on build up condensation

I should also mention that I am likely severely overthinking this, because for the last 40 years before we bought the house the basement was Wall > Air gap > Stud > Paneling and that's it, AND it had a moisture problem (which I remediated), and when I tore the paneling off there was no mold or mildew on any of it. And that was with zero insulation. So I guess another question is does adding insulation make MORE of a moisture risk than having none at all? Warm air would have gone right through that paneling it was the cheap faux wood panel types popular in the 70's.


Thanks again for the tip, if I can skip the house wrap and poly and just put up faced batt's and the drywall directly over them that would save me almost $200 in materials and hours of labor so if I can be convinced it's safe it would be a great solution
 
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Old 03-10-21, 07:42 AM
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I don't have the sort of time it would take to convince you, sorry. Good luck.
 
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Old 03-10-21, 08:19 AM
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I don't have the sort of time it would take to convince you, sorry. Good luck.
Could you talk to the points I posted?
 
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Old 03-10-21, 04:04 PM
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The basement has a french drain installed and there is a 1 inch gap between the floor and the exterior wall. If I went with a rigid board it would cover that gap. Is that OK?
 
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Old 03-11-21, 06:26 AM
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Here is what the walls and framing look like. The black crap on the floor is some old adhesive, its not mold. You can see the gap for the French Drain.


I just want the cheapest way to insulate this wall that won't grow mold or mildew and will prevent the basement from smelling musty. I don't care at all about thermal performance. The floors will be vinyl plank flooring with the built in underlayment.
 
 

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